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ELECTION

Le Pen jeered on final day of bruising campaign as Macron extends poll lead

Marine Le Pen was given a frosty welcome on her final campaign stop to the city of Reims on Friday where scores of protesters jeered her as she visited the cathedral. It comes as polls suggest rival Emmanuel Macron has stretched his lead.

Le Pen jeered on final day of bruising campaign as Macron extends poll lead
Photo: TF1 screenshot

Images and videos posted on Twitter showed scores of protesters waiting outside the cathedral in Reims, north eastern France, where Marine Le Pen had made a surprise visit on the final day of the bruising election campaign.

She was booed and jeered while protesters could be heard shouting “give back the money!” (rends l'argent). In the end she had to be taken out of a side door by her security team to avoid the baying mob awaiting her.

The Mayor of Reims had already said earlier in the day that Le Pen would be wasting her time in Reims, a city that is a symbol of “Franco-German reconciliation” and one that is “turned towards Europe”.

Le Pen's end to the campaign has been bumpy to say the least.

On Thursday she had eggs  thrown at her by protesters in Brittany, a day she was criticized by many, even members of her own party for her performance in Wednesday's debate, in which she was considered to be too belligerent. Some critics and media described it as a 'train wreck'.

The debate may indeed have an impact on Sunday’s vote but not in the way Marine Le Pen had hoped.

An opinion poll carried out after the live debate and published on Friday by the Elabe polling institute for BFMTV and L'Exxpress magazine showed centrist Macron had a lead of 62 percent over Marine Le Pen’s 38 percent.

That’s a three point boost for independent Macron whose lead had slumped to 59 percent in the previous poll after a slow and clumsy start to his second round campaign.

The poll will be a boost for Macron who went into the last day of campaigning of Friday confident it is he and not Le Pen who will be celebrating on Sunday night.

Analysts say only mass abstention can really threaten his victory and although two thirds of Jean-Luc Melenchon’s far left supporters have vowed to stay away from the polls, Macron should still have more than enough support to get past the post.

Both candidates plan high-profile television appearances on the final day as they seek to win over voters, with most polls suggesting the 39-year-old Macron enjoys a 20-point lead over his opponent.

At a final rally Thursday in the northern village of Ennemain, Le Pen told supporters she would give them back the keys to the Elysee Palace.

“France cannot wait five more years to hold its head high,” she said.

During a final rally in the southwest town of Albi, Macron told cheering supporters: “We will keep our promise of change to the end”.

The former economy minister came under fire however from dozens of union activists demanding the abolition of France's controversial 2016 labour reforms.

Macron said he had already chosen the name of his future prime minister — but even the person concerned had not been informed.

“Yes, this choice has been made 'in petto',” he told Europe 1 radio, using an Italian expression meaning “in my heart”.

Macron said he would only announce his choice after he took over from President Francois Hollande, if he wins.

“I will not announce it before,” he said.

Le Pen has said she would appoint eurosceptic ally Nicolas Dupont-Aignan — who was knocked out in the first round of the presidential election — as her premier if she wins.

ELECTION

Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron

The far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen finished top in European elections in France on Sunday, dealing a blow to pro-European President Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron
Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella. Photo: AFP

Results released on Monday morning by the Ministry of the Interior, which have yet to be formally verified and declared by the National Voting Commission, showed that the far right Rassemblement National (RN) party topped the polls with 23.3 percent of the vote, beating French president Emmanuel Macron's La Republique En Marche.

They were closely followed by Macron's party, which polled 22.4 percent.

Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron at a polling station in Le Touquet earlier on Sunday. Photo: AFP

The allocation of seats in the European Parliament has been complicated for France by the UK's delayed departure from the EU.

The Parliament had already decided that after Brexit, some of the seats that had been occupied by British MEPs would be reallocated to other countries, with France set to gain an extra five seats

However, last minute delays to Brexit meant that the UK had to take part in the elections, with the result that France will not gain its extra seats until Britain leaves the EU.

On last night's polling results, the RN will get 22 seats in the European parliament immediately, and an extra seat once Britain leaves.

Macron's LREM will get 21 seats now and 23 after the UK leaves.

The green party lead by Yannick Jadot was placed third with 13.4 percent of the vote, gaining 12 seats now and 13 after Brexit. 

The two parties that between them had dominated French politics for decades until the rise of Macron both polled in single figures. Nicolas Sarkozy's old party Les Republicains polled 8.4 percent, while the Socialist party of Francois Hollande was on 6.31 percent, winning them eight and six seats respectively.

Meanwhile the 'yellow vest' candidates scored just 0.54 percent of the vote, below the Animalist party which polled 2.17 percent.

Nathalie Loiseau with LREM party workers. Photo: AFP

Although a total of 34 parties fielded candidates in the European elections in France, the election had largely been framed as a contest between Macron and Le Pen.

Macron's La Republique En Marche party, its list headed by former Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau, was contesting its first European elections.

Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, was hoping to replicate her 2014 European election victory with her Rassemblement National party, its list headed by a political novice, the 23-year-old Jordan Bardella. Bardella called the results a “failure” for the LREM ruling party and sought to portray Macron's defeat as a rejection by voters of his pro-business agenda in France and pro-EU vision.

Macron had made no secret of the significance he attached to the results, telling regional French newspapers last week that the EU elections were the most important for four decades as the union faced an “existential threat”.

Jordan Bardella, head of the RN list. Photo: AFP

He has jumped into the campaign himself in recent weeks, appearing alone on an election poster in a move that analysts saw as exposing him personally if LREM underperformed.

The score of the National Rally is slightly below the level of 2014 when it won 24.9 percent, again finishing top.

Le Pen had placed herself towards the bottom of the RN list, so she will be returning to the European Parliament, where she served as an MEP from 2004 to 2017.

Turnout at the polls in France was the highest in recent years, with 50.12 percent of people voting, significantly up from 35.07 percent in 2014.

Veteran France reporter John Lichfield said: “After six months of 'yellow vest' rebellion, that Macron list has 22 percent is respectable. Much better than President Hollande did in 2014 (14.5 percent).

“But he made the election all about himself and lost. His hopes of emerging as de facto EU leader or enacting more French reforms are damaged.”

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